The AKIN classification system

The AKIN classification system is about as old as the RIFLE system, but has not been the focus of any CICM exam questions. It was first promoted in a March (2007) issue of Critical Care.

The AKIN system

The classification system separates renal failure into 3 categories:


Serum creatinine Urine output criteria


Creatinine × 1.5 - 2.0 from baseline
Creatinine increased by at least 26.4μmol/L
u/o < 0.5ml/kg/hr × 6 hours


Creatinine × 2.0-3.0 (i.e. doubled or tripled creatinine) u/o < 0.5ml/kg/hr × 12 hrs


Creatinine > 3.0
A creatinine over 354 μmol/L, with an acute increase by at least 44 μmol/L
The initiation of RRT
u/o < 0.3ml/kg/hr × 24 hrs
Anuria for 12 hours

This is a modification and an improvment of the RIFLE system, created as an answer to the various criticisms of the RIFLE criteria. Thus, in order to appreciate this system, one ought to first have knowledge of the RIFLE classification, and its various shortcomings.

The major changes are:

  • The diagnosis of AKI is only considered after achieving an adequate status of hydration and after
    excluding urinary obstruction.
  • The AKIN classification only relies on serum creatinine, not GFR.
  • Baseline creatinine is not necessary
  • Requires at least two creatinine measurements, within the same 48-hour period

Thus, Stage 1 corresponds to the "Risk" class; Stage 2 to the "Injury" class and Stage 3 to the "Failure" class. The "Loss" and "ESRD" categories were dumped.

Advantages over the RIFLE classification:

Lopes et al have published "a critical and comprehensive review" of the RIFLE and AKIN criteria in 2012. This summary owes much to their article.


Advantages of the AKIN system over the RIFLE system:

  • The AKIN score is independently associated with outcome. Just as RIFLE; so this is not really an advantage; rather a demonstration of non-inferiority.
  • The score is taken after hypovolemia has been corrected, thus excluding a group who were merely dehydrated. This introduces a certain aetiological selectivity into the process.
  • The score demands that urinary tract obstruction is excluded. This way urine output criteria retain their meaning, and again a certain spectrum of the AKI aetiology is controlled for.
  • The GFR is discarded, killing the controversy of how one should measure it. Previous criticisms of the RIFLE criteria have made much of the fact that a "true" GFR should be used, rather than an estimated GFR (eGFR).
  • Baseline creatinine is not required (though two measurements within the same 48 hour period are necessary). The baseline creatinine is replaced by the first "reference" reading.
  • There is a defined timeframe over which the creatinine is measured, this being 48 hours. This gives a firm framework for the rate of progression in acute renal failure.
  • The AKIN classification could theoretically improve the RIFLE criteria sensitivity and specificity, although the advantages of the RIFLE modifications have not been proven. In fact it turns out that AKIN criteria identify more patients with acute kidney injury, but do not improve our ability to predict in-hospital mortality.

Criticisms of the AKIN system:

Those demerits which are unique to the AKIN system are as follows:

  • Creatinine has to be measured within a 48 hour window, which may exclude more slowly progressive aetiologies. Renal failure which may develop over some weeks still remains undetected by this scoring system.
  • Patients who are subjected to RRT are scored as Stage 3, irrespective of the indication for RRT (eg. perhaps it is being used to remove some sort of toxin, and not because of renal failure?)
  • There is a significant variability in local practice regarding commencement of RRT. This could negatively influence the prognostic value of "Stage 3".
  • Patients are scored only after an "optimal state of hydration" is achieved, but this is an ill-defined state, and many may disagree as to what this actually means. "Optimal state" could be defined in a number of ways and by a whole series of different parameters.
  • Probably the strongest criticism of the AKIN modification to the RIFLE system is the fact that there is no difference in predictive value between these systems. Lopes and Jorge present six different studies which all failed to demonstrate a greater prognostic acuity for AKIN over RIFLE.

The following criticisms are shared by the RIFLE and the AKIN systems:

  • The system classifies renal failure once it has already become established, which is perhaps too late.
  • The criteria are unbalanced in outcome, but equal in weighting. The creatinine (GFR) criteria and the urine criteria are weighed the same, but have different associations with mortality. For instance, patients stratified into the "Risk" (or "Stage 1") class by the creatinine criteria are more severely ill than those stratified into the same class by urine output criteria.
  • Urine criteria rely on impractical measurements: The system requires 6th hour and 12th hour urine measurements, which are not routinely collected. This makes retrospective data collection difficult.
  • Urine output criteria are altered by diuretics, DI, etc.- i.e. they may not be a brilliantly accurate reflection of renal function.
  • Urine output measurements may be inaccurate. A mildly unwell "Risk" or "Stage 1" class patient may have no catheter, and may be voiding in an uncontrolled manner all over the hospital bathroom or bedsheets.
  • The "Risk" criteria for creatinine may not be sensitive enough: in one study y, but did not qualify for the "Risk" category.
  • The criteria require true GFR, rather than an estimated GFR: using the eGFR is inherently invalid, because the MDRD equation used to calculate eGFR is valid only in steady-state conditions (and you with your failing kidneys are by definition not in a steady state).
  • The criteria make no attempt to distinguish between different aetiologies; the differences may have powerful prognostic implications (eg. renal impairement due to dehydration vs. lupus nephritis).


Bellomo, Rinaldo, et al. "Acute renal failure–definition, outcome measures, animal models, fluid therapy and information technology needs: the Second International Consensus Conference of the Acute Dialysis Quality Initiative (ADQI) Group." Critical care 8.4 (2004): R204.

Cruz, Dinna N., Zaccaria Ricci, and Claudio Ronco. "Clinical review: RIFLE and AKIN–time for reappraisal." Critical care 13.3 (2009): 211.

Hoste, Eric AJ, and John A. Kellum. "Acute kidney injury: epidemiology and diagnostic criteria." Current opinion in critical care 12.6 (2006): 531-537.

Chertow, Glenn M., et al. "Acute kidney injury, mortality, length of stay, and costs in hospitalized patients." Journal of the American Society of Nephrology16.11 (2005): 3365-3370.

Lopes, José António, and Sofia Jorge. "The RIFLE and AKIN classifications for acute kidney injury: a critical and comprehensive review." Clinical Kidney Journal 6.1 (2013): 8-14.